WRV grad overcomes health obstacles

WRV grad overcomes health obstacles
WRV Grads

WRV grad overcomes health obstacles

Saturday, May 26, 2018
64 new high school graduates celebrate the way graduates have celebrated for generations.
By Patti Danner

White River Valley High School held its 27th commencement exercises Friday evening, sending 64 fresh-faced graduates off into their respective futures.

One graduate, Lacey Fisher, faced enormous difficulties, and overcame them all with a little help from the WRV family on her way to earning her high school diploma.

Fisher’s mother, Michelle Ellis, said that a misdiagnosis at an early age set in motion a series of events that could have had serious consequences on Fisher’s life and led to surgery on the teen’s heart last year.

“We thought she had asthma, her whole life,” Ellis said. “She had a nebulizer machine at school and at home and took breathing treatments two times a day since she was four years old. She carried an inhaler in her sports bag and in my purse. We spent thousands of dollars with an allergy specialist, asthma specialist and lung specialists, even seeing one the week before she got sick. No one had a clue what was really wrong with Lacey.”

At an early age, Fisher had difficulty swallowing and preferred “mushy” food, leading her family to believe she was a picky eater like countless other kids.

“She was finally correctly diagnosed with congenital heart disease,” Ellis said. Fisher’s subclavian artery was wrapped around her esophagus, constricting air flow and the passage of food, which led some to believe she suffered from asthma.

After being taken to the emergency room one evening after falling sick, doctors advised Ellis to go home and pack some clothes as they were transferring Fisher to a hospital in Terre Haute. Ellis returned in 15 minutes and was abruptly informed of a change in plans.

“Her blood pressure at that time was 53 over 26 and they told me a Riley helicopter was on it’s way. I was hysterical,” Ellis said.

Fisher was at Riley for 10 days, during which time her heart issue was found and corrected.

“Within a month, she had surgery and a month after that she was eating steak for the first time and playing basketball.” During her stay at Riley, she was visited often by softball coach and WRV school board member Brock Hostetter and by coach Brad Richard.

“The principal, LeAnne Kelley, called to check on her several times,” Ellis said. “The school nurse, Kara Graves, spoke to me several times a week. Her teachers saved all of her homework and even brought her a gift. Basketball coach Graves visited and kept a close eye on her when she returned to the court. I did not feel I had to worry, because everyone at the school was taking care of her like she was their own. When Dr. Hacker says WRV is a family, he means it. That is exactly what they are.”

Fisher graduated Friday evening with an Academic Honor medallion, a Technical Honor medallion, a $7,000 William and Edna Harrell scholarship and a National Honor Society certificate.

Students, faculty and staff stood in near-darkness, hands over their hearts, as the WRV quartet, made up of students Olivia Hayes, Claire Hostetter, Ian Staggs and Noah Walton, led by WRV Choral Director Austin Haming, gave a rousing performance of the Star Spangled Banner.

WRV Principal LeAnne Kelley introduced members of the White River Valley Board of School Trustees, President David Reed, Vice-President Joe Decker, Board Secretary Andy Davis, member Jason Davidson, member Brock Hostetter, member Bruce Porter and member Roger Shake. Kelley also introduced Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bob Hacker, WRV Middle School Interim Principal Jason Walton and WRV Elementary School Principal Jill Staggs.

Kelley asked all faculty and staff members to rise to be recognized.

“Thank you for caring about our students,” Kelley said. “Master teaching leaves an imprint upon the heart of a child. In these 64 graduates, I have seen some of your most outstanding work.”

WRV Assistant High School Principal Troy Greenlee took the podium to introduce the WRV Class of 2018 Salutatorian, Alex Wolfe. Wolfe received the Salutatorian’s Medal from Hacker as Greenlee listed his achievements: a final grade point average of 4.2901, Indiana Academic Honors, National Honor Society, all-SWIAC Academic Team, concert, pep band, drama, Fang Gang, Student Leadership Team, Academic Super Bowl, varsity letters in tennis and in golf, the 2018 IHSSA Eugene Cato Scholarship, the Delta Nu Tri Kappa Scholarship, the WRV special achievement scholarship, the WRV John Phillip Sousa Band award and ISSMA state gold medal winner, achieved twice. Wolfe will attend Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, majoring in Electrical Engineering.

As Wolfe gave his salutatorian speech, he thanked every teacher who had an impact on his education and asked all veterans in the audience to rise.

“How could I, an inexperienced 18-year-old, put myself on a soapbox,” Wolfe said. “And try to give advice to the men and women who have been through hell and back, fighting through wars and protecting the way of life that I have only taken for granted? To those here tonight I give my most sincere thanks.” Wolfe continued his address, speaking directly to his peers.

“I hope every one of us here gave WRV all they had, because I know WRV gave us all they had. I hope you have all left your mark here, a mark that our school will remember, a mark on every one of the teachers here tonight, whether good or bad. I hope that all of you will reflect from time to time, and remember the mark that White River Valley has left on you.”

Kelley then introduced the WRV Class of 2018 Valedictorian, Sierra Padgett. Padgett was then given the Valedictorian’s Medal by Superintendent Hacker.

Padgett graduated at the top of her class with a 4.2945 GPA, earned an Indiana Academic Honors diploma and an Indiana Diploma with Technical Honors. Padgett is a member of the National Honor Society and was named to the all-SWIAC Academic Team, excelled in WRV’s Health Occupations program, is a four-year member of the band, played lead roles in several drama club productions, Fang Gang, FFA, Dance team, varsity letters in both cross-country and track, managed the girls’ basketball team, is very active in community service work including delivering Thanksgiving meals, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army and helping to construct the WRV shot put/discus facility.

Padgett earned the Bill Wells Medical Scholarship, the WRV Booster Club Scholarship and the Dr. Mathias Mount Memorial Scholarship. Padgett will attend Purdue University, majoring in Public Health Science.

“It’s been hard work to get where I am,” Padgett said during her Valedictorian address. “I am thankful for all of those who have helped me along in my journey, teachers, coaches, faculty, friends and family. I am especially grateful to my parents for always pushing me to be the best that I can be, which is obviously why I chose Purdue.”

Padgett urged her classmates to aim high and to change the world.

“If we want our world to change,” she said, “Now is our time to be the leaders of that change. There is zero limit to the things you can do when you set your mind to do them. That sounds cliche, but that statement is a testament to the reason I am able to make this speech standing before you. Every one of you has had a tremendous impact on my life and I have so thoroughly enjoyed my time at WRV because of you all. For that, I thank you. Now, use your potential to make that same impact on the world we are soon to enter.”

Kelley then resumed her duties at the podium to recognize and honor a retiring teacher, Mary Puntney.

“Mary, thank you for 36 years of dedicated service as a member of our Foreign Language Department at WRV,” Kelley said. “On behalf of the Board of Education, Dr. Hacker and Mr. Reed would like to present you with this token of our appreciation for a job very well done. We would like for you to have this portrait, done specifically for this occasion by WRV art student Regan McKim.” Puntney took the stage to wild applause and cheers for the years of her service to WRV.

Kelley gave her speech to the outgoing seniors, advising them to remember one thing, to be honest.

“The truth will set you free,” Kelley said. “I saw a picture that was taken in Deb Pruett’s second-grade classroom at WRV Elementary. There was a big yellow smiley-face and under it, it said Class rules: be honest. It made my heart feel good to know that philosophy is being started way down in elementary school in the WRV school corporation. Remember, it is not the easy road to always speak the truth BUT it is the high road and the right road. I’m not one who believes in luck. Saying ‘good luck’ to all of you seems cliche’ to me, because life is not about luck. It is about intention. It is about being honest in everything you do. A very important man in my life, my father, used to say to me, ‘all you really have in life is being honest’. So Seniors, make it your priority. Live life every day being truthful. That, my friends, will take you far in life.”

Hacker then gave his final address to the Class of 2018, which included his own son, Taylor Hacker.

“I have seen our teachers work magic in the lives of these 64 kids,” said Hacker. “Motivating each to his or her best work. I speak for every educator in this room. We work with our hearts first, hoping our students will learn so much more than just math, or science, social studies or English. This year, however, this year meant something just a little more special to me. Over the course of the last five years, I’ve been privileged to work with many great WRV kids. Good-character kids, talented students both in and outside the classroom. I believe I can speak for our teaching staff from kindergarten to high school. We love our students and we are interested in them as we would be our own children. It’s what makes this place special. But tonight, I need to say this because he deserves to hear this from the bottom of my heart:”

Addressing his son in the rows of graduating seniors, Hacker asked him to rise.

“Taylor, stand up, and no you’re not in trouble. This time. Taylor, I want you to know that out of all the wonderful students I have had here you will always be my favorite WRV Wolverine. I love you, son.”

After Hacker’s address came the handing out of 64 diplomas to 64 proud Wolverines, followed by a final address from Principal Kelley.

“At this time,” she said, “We would like to recognize the members of the Class of 2018 who will be heading to the United States Military. It is, indeed, an honor to represent our country. On behalf of those here today, thank you Dakota Sparks, Zander Hall and Kyle Dickinson for the duty of country for which you are about to embark.”

As the three graduates stood, the audience did as well, offering a standing ovation to these three who would fight for our very freedom.

At the conclusion of the commencement ceremony, Senior Class President Alex Wolfe invited the crowd of friends and family to the school’s front parking lot, where graduates and their loved ones released illuminated Chinese lanterns into the sky, symbolizing the future journeys of the 64 Wolverines flying confidently into their futures.